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Penelope Street

Pene­lope Street is near­ing the end of her life. She’s very weak now and it’s an effort for her just to keep her eyes open. It’s eas­i­er to stay head bowed and eyes shut because she doesn’t want to see what’s hap­pen­ing around her. There’s noth­ing she can do about any of it. Pene­lope wants the end to come quick, but every sin­gle sec­ond seems to take a cru­el eter­ni­ty to pass. She just wants it to be over now.

One hun­dred and thirty-three.

I’ve been here for one hun­dred and thir­ty-three hours now. How much longer will I last? Will I reach one hun­dred and thir­ty-four or one hun­dred and thir­ty-five? Christ, I hope not. I can’t take much more of this. I wish I could make the end come faster. The frustration’s worse than the fear now.

I feel so weak. I haven’t got my med­ica­tion and I haven’t had any­thing to eat or drink since first thing Tues­day morn­ing. That’s more than five and a half days, sure­ly I can’t last much longer, can I? I can’t do any­thing but sit here with my head hang­ing down, look­ing into my lap. Some­times I look up and around but it’s all too much. Every­thing has changed and I don’t know how or why.

Arthur’s body is just in front of me. I can see his feet stick­ing out from behind the sofa we were here to buy. He’s still, but they move all around me, obliv­i­ous to the fact I’m here. They are the dark, decay­ing shad­ows of dead peo­ple. They are cold, emp­ty, emo­tion­less bod­ies. When I look up I see the streets out­side are full of them. I can’t move so they don’t see me, but if I make any noise they stop. I screamed and shout­ed at them to begin with because I thought they’d be able to help, but now I know they can’t. When they hear me they stop and bang on the glass, then even more of them come. I’m used to being stared at so I don’t move. I don’t react. After a cou­ple of hours they start to drift away.

Arthur brought me here on Tues­day to choose a new sofa, not that he need­ed me to come. There wasn’t any point in me get­ting involved in the deci­sion. It was down to him to choose one and try it out and decide whether or not we were going to have it. We got here ear­ly to avoid the crowds. If there are too many peo­ple then my chair just gets in the way. We’d just got through the door when it hap­pened. I watched it get him and every­one else. I watched them all die and I wish it had tak­en me too. I kept wait­ing for it to come, hop­ing and pray­ing it would, hop­ing and pray­ing this impos­si­ble life would soon be over. I can’t stand being alone like this. It makes me feel more help­less and vul­ner­a­ble than ever.

I’m so hun­gry. Thirsty too. My mouth’s dry and I’m so dehy­drat­ed that it feels like my tongue’s swollen to ten times its nor­mal size. I can’t talk prop­er­ly now, not that there’s any­one left to talk to. There must have been a fire near here, and peo­ple must have been trapped inside. I smelled the smoke first, then the burn­ing bod­ies. It was like sit­ting the mid­dle of a damn bar­be­cue, the whole world stink­ing of roast meat. Every so often I can still smell it and even though I know what’s burn­ing, it still makes the hunger pains worse.

The very worst part of all of this is not hav­ing any con­trol. I’ve not had much con­trol for a long time, but now I don’t have any. I can’t do a bloody thing about the sit­u­a­tion I’m in. I can’t do any­thing to help myself or to bring the end any clos­er. Help might be just around the cor­ner, but I can’t even get myself out of this damn build­ing, nev­er mind any­where else. An inch might as well be a hun­dred bloody miles for all the good it’ll do me now.

Just try­ing to look up takes so much ener­gy. There are more bod­ies out­side now, gaz­ing in at me with their cold, vacant eyes. I feel like a bloody shop win­dow dum­my, but then I have done since the acci­dent. Peo­ple always stared at me since then. Per­haps I should have got used to it? But I’ve nev­er been able to han­dle the side­ways glances and the way they’d avoid me. They either used to patro­n­ise me, or ignore me alto­geth­er and talk to Arthur instead. Either way, they made me feel like a freak. Peo­ple always saw the wheel­chair before they saw me sit­ting in it. I’m paral­ysed from the neck down, not up. I can’t move my body, but that was the only dif­fer­ence between me and every­body else. My arms and legs might be frozen, but I’ve always been able to feel hurt and get to scared and feel pan­ic like every­one else. Christ knows I’m scared now.

I would have been all right if it hadn’t been for him, that stu­pid bloody hus­band of mine. If he’d left me there after the fall instead of try­ing to be a hero I would have been okay. It would have tak­en time to get well again, but I would have been okay even­tu­al­ly. But no, Arthur knew best, didn’t he. It was him try­ing to move me that did the real dam­age to my neck. He blamed him­self and so did I. And now here I am, trapped in this cold, dark, emp­ty place, starv­ing to death with just his corpse for com­pa­ny. I can’t move an inch. What did I do to deserve this?

Come on death, hur­ry up. The joke’s over. I want this to fin­ish now. I’m sick and tired of sit­ting in this bloody chair just waiting …

THE AUTUMN SERIES